Visually Impaired Teen Swims for Gold with Help of Guide Dog

Visually+Impaired+Teen+Swims+for+Gold+with+Help+of+Guide+Dog

Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

Anastasia Pagonis, a New York resident, cheered on the New York Islanders NHL hockey team long before the Islanders  decided to raise a guide dog for her.  When she was 14 years old, Pagonis began to rapidly lose her vision, which  hit hard for her. This was also around the time a little Labrador retriever puppy named Radar was ready for his new home. 

Feeling motivated to get back into the pool  since her vision loss, Pagonis decided it was time to begin swimming competitively again.  She was a competitive swimmer six months prior to losing her sight. Swimming  kept her mind off losing her vision and has allowed her to cope with it. Swimming competitively  has been her favorite thing ever since and she has found much joy in the world of competitive swimming ever since her vision loss. 

Pagonis, who is now 16, has racked up many outstanding victories, including two gold medals at the World Para Swimming World Series in Australia. After, Pagonis soon got a call from the nonprofit Guide Dog Foundation about partnering with Radar, who was ready to be a guide dog. During the pandemic, Pagonis and Radar trained together hours on end for ten days at her home. Then, on August 19th, they officially teamed up. 

Radar recently traveled with Pagonis to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Pagonis is training with other top athletes for the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo. After just a couple of days, Radar  learned familiar routes while helping guide Pagonis around the campus in Colorado. Radar is a hit with other athletes, who already know his name. Pagonis hopes to achieve gold in Tokyo for her “golden puppy” who has helped her and been her #1 supporter along this journey of training for the Paralympics. There have been other supporters along the way for Pagonis and Radar. The New York Islanders are huge fans and supporters of the two and have requested updates on Radar and Pagonis while they travel the world together. Radar was very much popular with both fans and team members of the New York Islanders, as they would stand in lines to meet him at games. As Radar has been a guide dog for Pagonis, he has also had many social opportunities, such as attending hockey games and other events. He is a hard worker when he wears his harness, but when he’s off harness, he’s a huge cuddler. Pagonis is so happy with Radar and loves him to pieces. Many have already noticed that Radar has already made a huge impact and difference for Pagonis, in which they call them the “perfect pair.”